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USB2 and IEEE1394

UPDATE: When typing this post, I must have been on something, because I know that the speed of USB2 is 480Mbps while IEEE1394 is 400Mbps. So, theoretically, USB2 should be the faster connection. However, I have always heard that IEEE1394 is faster in practice. Looking back at my experiences, USB2 has still been the faster connection for me. This surprises some, because of the master/slave architecture of USB versus the peer-to-peer architecture of IEEE1394. At any rate, I got a card with both connections for my work computer. I'm going to benchmark the speeds of both.

I have an external HDD that I am storing all my OGGs on. 40GB. Not big, but it'll work. The enclosure provides both an IEEE1394 and USB2 connection. It's great for ultimate connectivity. However, my computer at work provides neither of these connections. So, I need a new PCI card for my computer at work. Luckily, both IEEE1394 and USB2 PCI cards are cheap. Problem is, I want to maximize my speed throughput.

In my experience, USB2 has always been faster than IEEE1394. Doing a fair amount of video and photo editing, I prefer USB2 for this reason. When transferring several GB at once, USB2 almost always pulls ahead of IEEE1394. Not by much, but noticeable at any rate. Yes, I've used a vast array of hardware at varying locations under differing circumstances, and the result is almost always the same. USB2 wins. But, supposedly, IEEE 1394 is supposed to be the faster connection.

So my question is this: why? Why is USB2 faster than IEEE1394? Is it the Master-Slave architecture over IEEE1394s peer-to-peer connection? If anyone could shed some light on this, it would be helpful.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Lonnie Olson | December 13, 2006 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

    USB2 is faster because the specified top speed of USB2 is technically 480Mbps. The top speed of Firewire (IEEE1394) is only 400Mbps. Not a huge difference, but during a long transfer it is noticeable.

    Many people say the Firewire is in general faster than USB2. Which is true is most practical uses of the bus. Like you mentioned USB requires a USB controller on the host. This controller can cause a slowdown when there are other devices competing for attention, or the CPU is busy. Firewire on the other hand is "peer-to-peer" so this controller is not needed.

    If you are transferring large files on a USB2 bus that has no other active devices, it will be faster than Firewire.

    If you are doing lots of seeking, or many small transfers, and have a mouse, keyboard, or other devices, Firewire is often faster.

    IMHO, USB2 is best for mass storage, and large transfers. Firewire is best for video cameras (control, seeking, and transfer).

  2. Aaron | December 14, 2006 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Yes. You are correct. I don't know what I was thinking. USB2 is faster than IEEE1394. Apparently, when typing the post, I was delirious, or something. I guess it would make sense, then, that USB2 is faster in practice. But I've always heard that IEEE1394 is to be faster in practice. Interesting...

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